Rolling out Slack to thousands of users on a college campus

Officials at Arizona State University discuss how their implementation went enterprise-wide during the pandemic at the Slack Frontiers conference.


Image: iStockphoto/oatawa

Deploying new technology to the masses is always a challenge, but as Arizona State University discovered, the stakes are higher in a pandemic. The university is using Slack as a “digital hub” to enable real-time communications and collaboration, officials said during a session at the Slack Frontiers conference Thursday.

With 120,000 students, “Scale is all about making sure the community is engaged,” said Samantha Becker, an executive director of creative and communications at ASU. “We broke it down by trying to understand what the community wants and needs.”

Officials did not take an “If we have Slack available they will come” approach, Becker said. “We wanted to find out what they wanted out of the communication hub.”

Slack Frontiers: Reassessing collaboration in a virtual world


Find the champions

In trying to inspire people to use a new tool to get to scale, “you don’t go it alone with a single team responsible for adoption,” added Warick Pond, executive director in strategic implementation at ASU.

He said it was important to create a “champions network” of people who shared what they use Slack for. Previously, many people may have viewed it as a tool for instant messaging and were not aware “how Slack can be used for day-to-day work and collaborations,” Pond said.

The strategy for campus-wide deployment started by putting together a cross-functional team of faculty, students, and staff, and making sure everyone “understood their role so they didn’t just join the team and ask what they were doing here,” Pond said.

“We did not treat it as an enterprise implementation,” he added. “We created personas to represent the masses and held jam sessions or focus groups

Twitter’s voice tweets are rolling out to more iOS users, and transcriptions are on the way

Twitter has just expanded its voice tweets feature, which lets you record a snippet of audio to include with a tweet, to more users on iOS. But perhaps more significantly, Twitter is now saying it plans to add transcriptions to voice tweets to improve accessibility, which could help address criticisms from the feature’s June 17th launch.

If you want to get an idea of how voice tweets work right now, just press play on the below tweet to hear a voice clip from my colleague Tom Warren. There’s currently no way to see captions or a transcription of what he’s saying. (Note: Tom is not actually sharing exclusive next-gen console news.)

Without any way to see a transcription, voice tweets were quickly criticized for not being accessible. Then it came to light that there wasn’t a dedicated team at Twitter for accessibility — instead, the company asked employees to volunteer their time on top of their usual work to focus on accessibility. That all meant that one day after voice tweets were announced, the company told The Verge it was exploring how to make a “more dedicated group” focused on accessibility.

Twitter has since announced two new teams dedicated to accessibility, on September 2nd: one promoting accessibility within Twitter’s products, and one focusing on accessibility for Twitter as a business. And as part of that announcement, Twitter said it’s planning to add automated captions to audio and video on the platform by “early 2021.”

It’s unclear when transcriptions might be available in voice tweets. Twitter didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. And if you want to try voice tweets on other platforms, you might have to wait awhile — the company said on its Twitter Support account that voice tweets would be coming to Android and the